The former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services employee accused of putting slain 5-year-old AJ Freund at risk by allowing the boy to remain with his parents will receive copies of the evidence prosecutors have collected so far, a judge ruled Thursday.
Former longtime DCFS employee and McHenry County Board member Carlos Acosta, 54, appeared in court Thursday morning with his attorney, Rebecca Lee.
Lee filed a request Oct. 26 seeking an order that would allow Acosta to personally review documents and other records that the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office has received so far in connection with his case.
Lee’s request was rooted in a recently amended Illinois Supreme Court Rule that previously barred defense attorneys from directly turning over any evidence to their client. Until recently, defendants could only review evidence in the presence of their attorney. As of Oct. 23, however, defendants are allowed to review copies of certain evidence, unless prosecutors effectively argue otherwise.
“Mr. Acosta is a professional,” Lee said in court. “There is no allegation of witness interference or intimidation.”
Some of the documents Acosta wishes to review contain personal information about witnesses and would require careful redaction to more than 2,500 pages of evidence, McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Randi Freese said. Because the case has garnered significant public attention, Freese said she worried details that “can’t be disclosed to the public at this time” might end up in the wrong hands.
McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt ultimately ruled in Acosta’s favor, with the expectation that Lee would redact personal identifiers of witnesses, excluding AJ’s parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr.
Both parties also are barred from sharing details about the evidence with outside sources, Wilbrandt ordered.
Acosta and his former supervisor, 48-year-old man Andrew Polovin of Island Lake, were arrested in September on felony charges of endangering the life of a child and reckless conduct.
The charges stem from a December 2018 investigation of a large bruise on AJ’s hip. Although DCFS deemed the case unfounded in February 2019, the investigation came back into question after AJ’s April 15, 2019, death at the hands of his parents. Both Cunningham and Freund are serving time in prison in connection AJ’s death.
Acosta’s case will resume in McHenry County court on Jan. 27.